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Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Cold Comfort of Conspiracy Theories

In Big Brother, conspiracy theories on March 17, 2020 at 22:53

I used to follow all conspiracy theories when I was in school and early on in college. Everything form alien landings to the pyramids to alien landings on the pyramids. I must have been the biggest X-flies fan at least in India. So much that later I even tolerated all seasons of Californication, just because ‘Mulder’ was in it. Every seeker goes through that phase of wondering if everything fits as neatly as science describes it. But it is important not to get stuck there. Most hot spots have been debunked from the Bermuda triangle to Loch Ness. But authors find new gaps to sell their paperbacks in. Till the Amazon Rain forest is completely stripped and Antarctica melts completely, this industry is going to be raking it in, then speculation will move to the moon.

I have realized such authors and ‘experts’ are not selling inquiry or intrigue. They are selling an escape. Part of why people don’t accept reality is because it involves taking responsibility for how shit your life is or has become. But…if the government is controlling our minds, if the Mayans used DMT or if aliens exist then all bets are off. It debunks society as we know it and I am suddenly absolved of all the bad decisions I have made. That is more important than whether Atlantis ever existed. People would rather chase these Unicorns than suck it up and wrestle their to-do list that has become longer than a life sentence.

Rumors are the primary form of human communication. We can call them stories to make it sound better. But it is still the primate herd behavior complicated by religion and multiplied by technology. Even within scientific communities dogma can take years to overturn. Because stories always sell more than science, even among scientists.

Some people are disappointed that after landing on the moon in the 60s we do not have flying cars yet. Some feel we are actually going backwards in time as a civilization. But in many ways it is a miracle that we are still here. In a world with multiple existential threats and a population that makes decisions entirely on emotions, any scientific progress is a huge triumph. But even if there is another Renaissance of rational thought we will still be unhappy. We will still believe in occult practices, Big Foot and that the moon landing was a hoax. Because reality is never enough. Even if space travel becomes common it will start feeling mundane in a couple of months. The only thing bigger than the universe is the ego and there is no black hole big enough to contain it.

Questioning everything is great. But most goose chases tend towards delusion. Another form of this delusion is believing in past glory, from family trees to Hindu Rashtra. Always believing that things were somehow better and more pure in the past. This is also a deflection of one’s own follies. Perhaps every Yug calls itself KalYug to pardon itself of its hypocrisy. A decent reading of history will tell you that it’s all peaks and troughs and not straight slide upwards or downwards. This also mirrors the nostalgia most people have for their childhood contrasted with the contempt they have for their corrupted adult life. Between ‘Adulting is difficult’ and ‘Stay in touch with your inner child’ most of us never actually grow up. And the comforts of modern life don’t let us.

As a person of science with a certificate to prove it, I always fall for cold hard facts over rosy stories. But the market works otherwise. Conspiracy theories about Coronavirus will reach fantasy proportions but people will not practice social distancing. It is somehow easier to swallow the horror of unbelievably evil governments working in amazingly synchronized fashion to effect genocide than to accept that we are still at the mercy of nature and life is as fragile and precarious as it has ever been. It hurts the entitlement Genesis has instilled in us. The Dictatorship theory is more acceptable because it fits in the more tried and tested Good v’s Evil format. Millions of innocent people may die but eventually ‘we win’.

The world is way more complex than a Nolan movie and life is way more random than a Tarantino flick. Finding wonder in that itself, accepting your fragility is the first step and it’s difficult. Thinking the mystery of creation will reveal itself through an acid trip or a podcast is as foolish as it is arrogant. Self-awareness is a lifelong journey of realizing your insignificance. But once you are on that path, life can seem more wonderful and opportune than any Coronavirus conspiracy.

  • Punit Pania

Is Everything Kayfabe?

In Love on June 4, 2019 at 18:28

If I were to ever have something as foolish as a favorite word, it would be Kayfabe, a concept I didn’t know existed till less than a year back.

A word invented by professional wrestling (which is itself an invented term), Kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events as true or real, even when both portrayer and audience know better.

It not only addressed my guilt of still enjoying wrestling, it also explained a lot of other behavior and social phenomenon otherwise described as ‘performative’.

So much that I even used it in a sound-byte during the Me-Too movement on the whose-who of the stand-up industry falling to the most serious of crimes; proven hypocrisy:’Much of what passes as woke is Kayfabe that doesn’t cost much to commit to and happens to sell. Comics are to activism what pro-wrestlers are to martial arts – great on camera but heartbreakingly far from the real deal. We may continue to enjoy their content but never mistake it for real-life intentions, let alone actions.’
To which one Netizen tweeted: ‘Is Love also Kayfabe?’ A question immediately valid and rhetorical in its simplicity.

A lot of our lives is merely performance: the interviews we give, the movies we watch, the parties we attend and the politicians we vote for. All of it an open secret of bad acting and a criminal lack of creativity. Anything to get away from the really important questions in life. 

Most of us have a false sense of immortality. It is the only thing that keeps us going. Once food, clothing, shelter and sex are bought and paid for, nothing else short of a higher purpose is motivation enough to get you out of bed in the morning. And in a Godless world we end up finding this meaning in everything from stamps to Golf to a corner office. Many of us try to find it in a another person. Someone we believe is the perfect compensation for all our insecurities. A match more perfect than a solved Rubik’s cube. The chances of the other person being at the same stage in his/her life and feeling the same way are slim to say the least. But it does enable chocolates, Romcoms and divorce lawyers to continuously be in business.

Love feels good. It feels great. It feels like heaven, even if you are an atheist. So you invest more and more into this one person against all good faith, market sentiment and your own better judgement until he/she can’t take it anymore. The chance to frame your life-long anxiety into this perfect picture of harmony and happy endings is so tempting that is defies mounting statistical evidence to the contrary. Even the most strong-willed among us fall for it, on multiple and successive occasions.

Watching a young couple talking about love is almost as scary as watching an old couple trying to cross the road. You know they won’t make it but they still have to try. You have to love one person unreasonably to be reasonable with the rest of the world. Everything is fair in Love, War and the race for TRPs. But the only thing we underestimate is our ability to hurt others.

The other extreme is also not pleasant, being rational to a fault. Parking all faith and sensibilities in science and logic. Picking consistency over warmth, certainty over adventure and detachment over failure. Science coupled with atheism is a righteous mix. To the point where you start taking an academic interest in your own ruin. A third-person view of your own life. A waking, unblinking Nirvana.

But being a rational person in an emotional world only makes you feel more alone when it’s finally time to switch the Wifi off at night. And you can’t fight loneliness with more loneliness. All that is left then is a familiar blank page in front of you. You could give up on it or make another futile attempt to soar above the toil of fears and longings. And to reduce in whatever small way; hate, if not hurt in the world. If you can’t buy into someone’s Kayfabe, you make up your own.

  • Punt Pania

Unconditional Love

In Love on February 5, 2018 at 15:37
Unconditional is the only kind of love there is, everything else is just a transaction. A give and take that can be explained by some mixture of evolution and economics. Most of what we call love is the willful suspension of logic by genes itching to replicate under the covering fire of bad poetry. And it can’t hide for long. No myth is sacred enough for Science to not topple. The most vile crime to the most exalted emotion, all just resulting from a different cocktail of hormones and pathologies, from a pedophile’s compulsive behaviour to a Mother’s love for her newborn. Everything happens for a reason governed by biology and chemistry and pre-determined by physics. Random objects in a cosmic pinball machine, innocent bystanders in an unfortunate hit and run.
bojack horseman planetarium
What your parents used to call fate, you can call string theory. But it won’t make you feel any less helpless. Between anorexia and food addiction, nothing is eccentric enough, all is acceptable and even worthy of celebration or worse, rationalization. In a world full of victims, there is no crime, only mass depression posing as utopia. The end of guilt is near but it will also be the end of wonder. Eventually genetics will explain all evils and malignancies and we will be absolved of all sins; except hypocrisy.
ryan-gosling
But unconditional love will remain…a glitch in the system that we wish we could wish away. Call it insanity, temporary or otherwise. Emotional graffiti that will live on in anonymous donations and the kindness of strangers. Complete surrender to a person, a cause or a muse as an antidote to the highly leveraged hyper-connected modern world. If you ever feel it sneaking up on you, don’t try to fight it with logic. Embrace it as the only trace of free will left. And jump off with a middle-finger salute to the heavens.
– Punit Pania